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Posted: February 25, 2013

Top three ways to get the most from event sponsorships

Here's how to make them work for you

Donna Marshall

When it comes to expenditures for marketing, many of us assume that advertising in the channel that delivers the biggest audience will provide the best return on investment. That approach might work well for large consumer brands such as Pepsi and Ford Motor Co., but if your niche is narrower, aiming broadly could waste precious funds. Instead, consider a marketing vehicle that is more targeted than traditional mass mediums.

Sponsoring a conference, for example, allows you to target a select group in the specific field in which you operate. The annual Colorado Culture of Health conference (which, full disclosure, the Colorado Business Group on Health helps organize) draws roughly 400 human and resource professionals and benefit administrators from a range of 200 employers statewide.

If you own a company that provides worksite wellness programs, provides specialized health services or creates healthy living opportunities, sponsoring the conference would give you greater access to your core audience than a radio advertisement or newspaper advertisement would, for example.   

Event sponsorship works because it often provides a platform to tell your story directly to key decision makers or users of your products or services. It also offers the chance to build relationships.

Some conferences provide sponsors with contact information for attendees, allowing for follow-up and perhaps future sales.  In addition, sponsorships enable businesses to align themselves with a certain issue or cause in a way that’s not always possible through traditional marketing channels.

Here are a few tips on how to make sponsorships work for you:

Do your homework: Figuring out which events might be the best fit takes research. Professional associations are a good place to start because they often host industry conferences for members. Networking groups can also be a great source of information because chances are good that many of your colleagues have already done some legwork. If there is a certain cause that resonates with the audience you are trying to reach, look for non-profits doing work in that area. They will likely host at least one large fundraiser annually that requires support.

Evaluate your budget: Think about what you’ll need to spend to achieve your goals. Many sponsors like to start small and then build their level of commitment over time. That’s a fine approach, but if you’re expecting a certain event to increase brand recognition and you sign up for a sponsorship level that highlights your firm in a minimal way, you may not get good results. It’s also wise to examine your existing advertising and marketing allocations to determine if cutting a budget item to help fund a higher level of commitment will result in more exposure in the long-term.

Be smart: Sponsorship opportunities pop up often, but only a few will be worth your time and money – especially if you’re a small business with a limited budget.  Attending an event you’re considering sponsoring will help you get a better sense of who is attracted to the event and how well it’s run.  And don’t be afraid to ask to speak to former sponsors about their experiences.

Donna Marshall, MBA, is the Executive Director of the 17-year-old non-profit Colorado Business Group on Health (CBGH). The CBGH acts as a catalyst in the community to improve quality and value in health care by advancing the purchaser role.  For more information: go to www.coloradohealthonline.org

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